Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reminder: Frederick Food Photography Club Meeting 11/4!

That's right, Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 2p is the inaugural meeting of the Frederick Food Photography Club here at The Kitchen Studio. Woo hoo!

We'll be getting together for the first time to discuss how we'd like the club to work, if there are any specific goals, and set future meeting dates. Doesn't that sound like fun? Well sure it does!

There's no cost (it's FREE baby!), and I think it will be terrific to have like-minded folks working together to improve their food photography skills. I'd love to meet you, so be sure the set your clocks back an hour tonight, then show up at TKS (5301 Buckeystown Pike, right beside The Hampton Inn) at 2p on Sunday. Best guess, the meeting should last somewhere between 60-90 minutes for our first gathering.

If you've already rsvp'd, I thank you. If not, no biggie. We'll see you tomorrow at 2.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Frederick Food Photography Club First Meeting: 11/4!

Finally!  I am thrilled, pleased, and absolutely delighted to announce that it's finally happening.

The first meeting of the Frederick Food Photography Club will be held at The Kitchen Studio Cooking School on Sunday, November 4 at 2p.

The basic premise is this: Amateur photogs with an interest in food shots gather every other month or so to practice taking great shots of food and hopefully learn from each other in the process.

There is no cost involved, but you'll need to bring whatever props and set-ups you'd like to shoot for our first meeting. Let's keep it simple, shall we? We'll discuss how we should establish the club, whether we have food themes, if we want to look for speakers, and anything else we can think of. If you're looking for hardcore photo instruction, this isn't the place for you. I'm a rank amateur, though I'd like to develop my skills quite a bit, and I will NOT be providing instruction of any sort. Y'know, because I'd like your photos to look good. :) Oh yeah, you should own a camera too. Kind of a "duh", but best to clarify...oui?

Please, please, please comment to let me know if you'll be able to attend so that we can have an accurate headcount, just in case I'm feeling snacky. Can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cider House Rules: Distillery Lane Ciderworks

In my quest for the new and interesting, I've been getting my booze on lately. And no, I'm not talking so much about drinking, but more the bottling and researching and even wee bit o' writing.

One of the stops on my local booze-o-rama tour is Distillery Lane Ciderworks in Burkittsville for an article in the current issue of The Gorilla, a fab magazine about town. Being a huge hard cider fan, it was particularly delightful to find a local orchard pressing and fermenting the good stuff right here in Frederick County. After tasting bunches of different ciders, I was surprised to find out that I actually need a little fizz with my apples for maximum enjoyment.

Want to take a look at the article? Just click on through right here for the full story. And while you're at it, plan a visit to Burkittsville, take 5 buckaroonies with you for a tasting, and a little more to purchase a few bottles of locally grown and magically produced hard cider. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Recipe: Panko-Parmesan Pork Chops

I'm on fire! Not literal fire, but look at all these recipes coming your way. Hope you're finding a little time to give 'em a try. But before you get too far into this blog today...WARNING: This blog contains graphic photos of a pig. And its parts. So if that freaks you out, come on back another day or go here to skip the pics and go straight to the recipe.

Today, our recipe is Panko Parmesan Pork Chops. Let's start at the beginning. This is my friend Josh:

Josh is the meat manager at The Common Market, and he's pretty cool.

Josh and I decided that we should buy a pig and break it down together into all of its bits and bobs. We're hoping to offer a pig class during the winter at The Kitchen Studio for those folks interested in basic meat cutting, so Josh and I headed to Thurmont to pick-up our pig at a local butcher and give ourselves a little refresher. It was a little...odd.

We headed down to TKS and Josh unloaded the sucker (even cut into halves, it was pretty heavy) and got it prepped on a few cutting boards.

Truthfully, Josh did most of the work, which was awesome for me!

That's a lot of pig:

We shared our lovely porcine friend with friends and fellow pork lovers, and I tucked a few cuts in the freezer. In my attempt to dodge the grocery last week, I hit the freezer and snagged a loin. A few quick cuts and I had a few boneless chops, each about an 1 1/2" thick. A quick dredge in panko, freshly grated Parm, a few herbs, and a quick saute in a hot pan and voila!

If you look carefully, you'll see that our entire dinner that night was unintentionally devoted to the letter "P". Pork chops, potatoes, peas, and yup...popovers. Sure, there's a little arugula too, but come on...isn't that fun? It all felt slightly Sesame Street-esque.

For the recipe, you'll of course need to click here to my Chesapeake Family blog, but I promise, it's worth the click. It comes together super fast and you don't need to cook it forever. Don't forget that pork loins and chops only need to be cooked to 145 degrees. No need to make this like leather...'k?

My piggy friend was delicious, and truly, you can taste the difference between local pork and that mass-produced junk you're going to get elsewhere. It makes a difference and I'm looking forward to tasting more of this guy (or gal).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

Doesn't that look pretty? And fall-ish?

All the rain last week put me in a soup frame of mind. Fall is here, so we all know that it was inevitable. Rain, cold, soup. It's how I roll. And I roll butternut squash soup. Maybe it's because I resemble one right now...

I love butternut squash, but I do hate to peel and chop them. I'm totally lazy. Like, for real. So I did what any lazy cook would do and I headed to Wegmans. They have already peeled and chopped butternut squash, which I know you think is lazy and expensive, but really, not so much on the expensive part. Of course it's a tiny bit more than buying the whole squash, but really, we all have our vices. Don't judge. ;)

Just like last week, this is a recipe I wrote for the lovely folks over at Chesapeake Family Magazine. You'll need to click through here (yes, I know it's annoying, but come click) for the recipe, but it's simple, and easy, and dare I say....healthy. Plus, it's way better than my pic above would let you think. Want to make it more awesome? Peel and chop a sweet apple (like a Gala) and toss it in the pot with the squash. Yum!

Next week...Panko-Parmesan Pork Chops.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recipe: Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Bread

It's starting to get a bit chilly, which turns my menus from bruschetta and gazpacho to pumpkin (anything) and chili. Last week, I decided to work through a new recipe for pumpkin bread for the weekly recipe blog I write for Chesapeake Family magazine. Here...take a look at this beauty:

Now, doesn't that look spectacular? Indeed, the family ripped through an entire loaf in just an afternoon.

Now, I hate to do this to you, but since the lovely folks at Chesapeake Family actually pay me to put fab recipes up on their blog each week, I'm going to direct you here for the recipe. Please forgive me, but I do promise it's worth the click. Not trying to toot my own horn too much, but this quick bread is a snap to put together, makes 2 loaves at a time, and is quite deliciously wonderful.

Make it, love it, share it, and let me know what you think. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

TKS Help Wanted: Saturday Kitchen Assistant

Love food? Awesome! Big fan of kids? Even better! Looking to make a little extra cashola on the weekends? PERFECT!

We're looking for a kitchen assistant at The Kitchen Studio to lend a hand with our super popular kid's and teen birthday parties on Saturdays and possibly a Sunday or two down the road. You'll have the opportunity to work with great instructors, terrific kids, and wonderful families too. And don't forget about all that pizza!

We're looking for a hard-working part-timer to work 2-3 Saturdays a month, mostly from 9:15-4. You've got to be at least 16, have your own reliable transportation, sport a most excellent attitude, and not be afraid of washing dishes. Lots of dishes. ;)

We're looking to make a hire immediately, so feel free to pass this on to your super fun next-door neighbor, that really cool teen you know from your kid's soccer team, or anyone that wants in with an amazingly fun group of talented cooks and helpers. You can reach me directly at Look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gotta Break Some Eggs in Today's News-Post!

Woot! Gotta Break Some Eggs, my teen & tween-centric cooking site, is featured in today's Frederick News Post.

Here's a bit from the article by the lovely Katie Crowe:

"Each summer, The Kitchen Studio is at its busiest, offering eight weeks of summer-camp classes for tweens and teens. The summer classes scheduled for this year are already about 95 percent filled, Van Bloem said. This often results in many teens and tweens being left out from participating in classes held at The Kitchen Studio either due to availability, their location to the studio, finances, or other factors, Van Bloem added.

Knowing this, Van Bloem wanted to provide a vast cooking resource to those tweens and teens not able to enroll in classes. In 2009, with the launch of her interactive website,, she began to expand her teachings beyond the classroom. The website targets youths in grades 5 through 10 and is video and recipe driven.

Something new is added to the site nearly every day. On Mondays, a two- to three-minute cooking instruction video is posted, featuring Van Bloem making a specific tween-and-teen-friendly recipe. The next day, Van Bloem posts the recipe she demonstrated the day before on the site. Midweek, Van Bloem will often post a recipe geared toward Mom and Dad, she said."

Want to read the entire thing? Of course you do! You can read the complete article here. And while you're at it, bop on over to Gotta Break Some Eggs, or better yet, send your favorite teens & tweens in that direction.

And yup, we actually broke all those eggs in the pic featured in the paper. It was SUPER FUN!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Check it Out: The North Market Pop Shop

I've just started writing for The Frederick Gorilla-- yippee! Maybe you've heard of them? This saucy mag is available all over Frederick with splashy articles on topics relevant to those in Fred Co. There's also this fantastic new column, Epicuriosity, written by...ME!

This issue, I'm taking a visit to the super-fun North Market Pop Shop on Market St. between 2nd and 3rd. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"This snazzy, soda-lovin’ shop caters to the thirsty and sugar-deprived alike with a fantastic assortment of glass bottle sodas. The shop carries dozens of different brands and flavors of pop, from colas and cream sodas to bubblegum-flavored soda and fruit flavors.

We all know the supposed cachet of forgoing the can and going straight for the glass bottle. The weight in your hand, the way it stays cool for just a bit longer, really, nothing beats those sassy bottles, and we all know it."

You can read the full article here. You'll need to go to pages 20-21 for the story. Let me know what you think, and be sure to check out the North Market Pop shop in downtown Frederick.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On the Radio: Foodie & The Beast This Sunday!

This Sunday, June 3rd, I'm going to be a guest on Foodie & the Beast on AM1500 at 11am. How awesomely cool is that? Super cool!

The hosts, Nycci & David Nellis seem like they're super fun (you can watch taped versions of the show on YouTube) and I'm so excited to talk about The Kitchen Studio and Gotta Break Some Eggs! 

If you want to follow the show on Twitter, Nycci's handle is @NycciNellis, and they'll be using the hastag #foodieandthebeast.

We'll be having a great time, so be sure to tune in!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recipe: Salad Nicoise-ish

I like to cook. I love to cook. But I've come to one of those places in my life where I've realized that I don't actually cook much. Huh.

Let's see -- I...
  1. Lived in NYC and talked about food incessantly in addition to eating out whenever possible
  2. Went to a fancy French cooking school
  3. Worked as a personal chef for 8+ years
  4. Opened a recreational cooking school of my own
  5. Got so darn busy that I stopped cooking for myself and my family
I fell into that trap of getting busy and hiring other, wonderful folks to work with me and to broaden our class offerings at The Kitchen Studio, and in the meantime, got sucked into working at night, working during the day, shuttling teens from track practice and softball 7 days a week and, well, I'm sure you know the drill.

But I really, really like to cook. So I've decided to do just that, and gear up for a summer of lovely vegetables and herbs.

To start things off, I'm going back to my beginning (cooking school) -- Salad Nicoise. Ish. Because this is traditional in feel, but not all the way across the board. I made it the way I like it, and I'll tell you, it's pretty darn fantastic, and not at all difficult to make, though it can be a bit of a process.

Salad Nicoise-ish
Serves 4-6
  • 1 pound baby potatoes, any variety
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and quartered
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 or 2 heads of butter or Boston lettuce, your choice, washed, dried, & torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon good quality Dijon or grainy mustard
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Excellent quality canned tuna in olive oil, 265 ml (not the cheap stuff)
  • Optional: Nicoise Olives, green beans

Scrub your potatoes and place in a medium pot. Cover with cold water, plus another 2" or so, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. Remove one from the pot to test that it's cooked through. If not, add a few minutes until tender. Drain in a colander and cut potatoes in half. Place hot potatoes in a bowl. Pour white wine over potatoes and allow to rest for 10 minutes. The potatoes should soak up a bit of the wine, which is yummy. Trust me.

In a separate bowl, add the chives, thyme, parsley, mustard and vinegar. Whisk well to combine, then drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a lettuce leaf, taste the vinaigrette to see if you like it. I tend to the vinegary side, so you may want to add a little more olive oil -- your call. I used this fancy-pants mustard that I bought this past weekend in NYC. Isn't it cool? And yes, it's delicious as well. :)

Like your vinaigrette? You're set then. Add about 1/3 of the vinaigrette to the warm potatoes and toss gently to combine, taking care not to smash the potatoes. At this point, you can refrigerate the potatoes and hold off on assembly until you're ready.

To assemble, place the washed and dried lettuce in the bottom of a large, flat bowl or on a platter. Add quartered tomatoes, quartered hard-boiled eggs, red onion, and if you're using them, the olives and green beans. (Note: I totally bought green beans to go into this salad at Costco today, but when I cooked them they tasted rotten and disgusting and weird, so into the trash they went. Not that I'm angry or anything. But I am. Harumph.)

Drain the tuna, and please, please, please, no Chicken of the Sea here. You've got to use the best quality you can find.

I'm thinking that Juliet's Italian Market on Church St. in Frederick must have some of the good stuff. This tin cost $10.99 at Fairway in NYC, which it totally how much I thought it would be, but may freak you out price-wise. A little goes a long way.  Mmmmmm. 

Check it out. How gorgeous and summery and lovely is that?

Assemble right before serving, and drizzle with as much of the remaining vinaigrette as you like. You may have some left over, but you can save it in the fridge for up to a week to use in something else if you like.  I also love to serve this with a crusty baguette to sop up any dressing left pooling on my plate. Now, doesn't that sound nice?

Recipe: Israeli Couscous Salad Caprese

Have you tried Israeli couscous yet? I am simply obsessed with this little bitty pasta. Not everyone is using it, which makes it a fun take-along for potlucks and all of those great end-of-season get-togethers you'll have for your kid's sports.

Israeli couscous is a pumped up version of it's tiny cousin couscous and takes just 10 minutes to cook. It's extremely versatile and is open to almost any adaptation from pasta salads currently in your repertoire. You'll find this in the Middle Eastern section of Wegman's or at The Common Market.   You can make this as a vegetarian option or pump up the protein by adding some grilled chicken to the mix.

Israeli Couscous Salad Caprese

Serves 4
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup roasted tomatoes, diced into small pieces (get 'em at Wegman's at the olive bar)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1 cup cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
Place the water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, add Israeli couscous, cover, and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then place in a colander and rinse with cold water. Allow couscous to drain for 5 minutes.

Place couscous into a large bowl and add mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, and chicken (if using) stirring well to combine.

Prepare dressing by placing red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Slowly pour extra virgin olive oil into the vinegar mixture while whisking. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.

Serving note: If not serving immediately, reserve half of the dressing and add just before serving.

Now, doesn't that sound yummy? And easy? It's perfect for the hot weather we're having and terrific leftover too. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Favorite New Cookbooks: Make The Bread, Buy the Butter & The Homemade Pantry

I've been on a kick lately. A cookbook buying jag if you will. You see, cookbooks have a season just like baseball or basketball, or tomatoes. New cookbooks make their grand entrance in the spring and in the fall (to get a jump on that holiday wish lists). And this spring has been a doozy.

It seems that now, making your own stuff is very, very important in the cookbook world. I'm not talking about dinners or sandwiches or fondue, but making the basics. Bread, mayonnaise, cheese, Pop Tarts. Huh. Making your own Pop Tarts? Absolutely, I'm in.

Thanks to my spiffy Amazon Prime membership, a quick click and a day or two later, snappy new books, right on my doorstep (so worth the $75 annual fee, for real).

Up first, The Homemade Pantry, by Alana Chernila.
(Don't bother clicking to look inside, because I lifted the pic from Amazon. Kthanks.)

Author of the popular blog Eating From the Ground Up, this is Chernila's first book. I never read her blog, or had even heard of it prior to my purchase (sorry!), but I'm a reader now. I love her writing style, which seems so natural and honest and not nearly as earth-mothery as I had anticipated from a churn your own butter-type of book.

She makes her own "car treats", granola bars, Pop Tarts (toaster pastries) and does it easily, but not effortlessly, which I appreciate. I read the darn thing cover to cover at a softball tournament and have set about to cooking from the book. which I never actually seem to do.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, by Jennifer Reese, a blogger at Tipsy Baker was recommended to me by one of the students in a recent knife skills class. He recommended, I bought the book the next day, 'cause that's how I roll.

The idea here is that Ms. Reese will let you know what you can be making in the kitchen (salsa, eggs Benedict, beef jerky, yogurt and so, so many other things), what is simply too much trouble (baguettes, corn dogs, burritos, etc.), and the level of hassle you can expect with each dish.

More than the recipes, I love the lengthy headnotes above the recipes and the longer back stories included as well. Her writing style, well, it's lovely, and something I really appreciate. I'm quickly becoming a regular reader here as well. Though recipes are a dime a dozen these days, good writing that really reaches you is something less available, but present in both of these wonderful books.

So go to Amazon, go to the library, and don't feel guilty when you decide that curing your own meats is too much effort for you. It's important that you cook what you like and what makes you feel comfortable. Personally, I rather buy a beautiful charcuterie plate than cure the meats and make the Camembert myself, so no guilt with these lovely books -- just possibilities.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Intro to Canning at The Kitchen Studio (or How to NOT Kill Your Family & Still Eat Yummy Food)

Canning is definitely a case of everything old is new again...don't you agree?

Just take a look at that picture. Middle of winter, I assure you those goodies, carefully and safely tucked away in those snappy jars, are a welcome sight. Depending on the severity of the winter, one might go as far as to say those jars are dead sexy. I kid you not.

Due to a small error in calculation, I just planted 15 tomato plants, 5 cucumbers, a bunch of peppers, and some other stuff that truthfully, I don't have a clue about. Ok, and when I say that I planted them, I mean that I forced my children into slave labor and had them do the planting. For Mother's Day. Y'know...because I'm a mom. So who KNOWS what will happen over the course of the summer.

But if all goes well, and my gardening by neglect doesn't fail (seriously, how can this not work?), I shall be rewarded with lots of yummy things. Too many yummy things. And that's where canning comes in.

Caroline McAllister is one of my instructors at TKS. She's awesome. Just look at her.

Caroline is one of those real frontier woman types. She grows her own garden (really, really well), takes care of varmints (you simply must ask her about groundhogs), and cans all those extra goodies for her family. She's a real pro. She's kind of like The Canning Queen of Frederick, which is why she's teaching Intro to Canning at The Kitchen Studio on Saturday, June 30 at 9am.

Caroline is going to teach you how to can without killing those you love. Isn't that fun, that little element of danger? Ok, not really, which is why it's important to really know what you're doing if you're going to start canning.

In class, Caroline will show you the tools you'll need (not many, and they're fairly inexpensive) and the process of water bath canning. You'll whip up Spiced Strawberry Butter, Chamomile Scented Strawberry Syrup, Dilled Carrots, and of course, Classic Cherry Preserves. Cost of the class is $65 per person and does include a few samples to take home.

Space is pretty limited in class, so bust a move and get your registration in now. You''ll learn a new (old) skill that you'll have for a lifetime. You can register for class right here. Thinking of taking another fun-filled class this summer at TKS? Please do! We have great options over the summer, and you can peruse the class calendar here. We'd love to cook with you this summer, whether it's Modern Greek (I simply cannot get enough Fattoush right now), our Summer Deck Party, Summer Ravioli, or even our not-quite-famous Farmer's Market class. We'll see you soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Introducing The Frederick Food Photography Club

My mind races as soon as the lights go out each night, as I come up with new things to do or try or cook. And one of my predominant thoughts has been how much I suck at food photography. Because I do. Ok, maybe not completely suck, but there is some definite room for improvement.

My friend Bruce is in the same boat, only, he's a much better amateur photographer than I am, though still with a ways to go before we really take shots of something really, really great. He and I even got together one day this winter to shoot a few food shots and practice our skills. It was inspiring and fun, and really stoked my creative juices, of which there are few. Look...I took this one:

So I came up with this idea. What would it be like to start the Frederick Food Photography Club? No dues or anything crazy like that, but more so a group of people who want to take better food pics for blogs or whatever, meeting a couple of times a year, or even bi-monthly to share food, tips, and camaraderie.

Here's what I propose:
  • Bi-monthly meeting at The Kitchen Studio Cooking School on Sunday afternoons for an hour or two
  • Everyone brings a prepared dish or raw ingredients to shoot
  • Everyone brings a camera (doesn't matter what kind)
  • If you have fill cards, or lights, or backgrounds, or props, feel free to bring 'em
  • All of the bowls, equipment, dishes etc at TKS are available for use
  • We all clean up the joint together
  • Cost is $0. Free. Zero. Zippo. Zilch.

So, what do you think? Interested? Comment to let me know if you think this could work for you, and we'll take it from there.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Super Summer Cooking Camps at The Kitchen Studio

Summer camp 2012 registration is open and registering briskly at The Kitchen Studio, and we couldn't be more excited! This summer, your jr. chef can cook tons of new recipes with our muy talented group of instructors, learn great new cooking techniques, and build tons of kitchen confidence too.
You'll want to register now, while you still have options left. Our first camp (Teen Bake-A-Rama Super Camp) sold out in just one day. One day!!

Here's what is on tap this summer:
  • Cooking 'Round the Clock (8-11 year-olds)
  • Iron Chef--2 sessions! (12-17 year-olds)
  • Ciao Italia (8-11 & 12-17 year-olds)
  • Advanced Techniques for Teens Super Camp (12-17 year-olds)
  • Passport Around the World (6-8 & 8-11 year-olds)
  • Cook Like a Celebrity Chef (8-11 year-olds)
  • Bake-A-Rama Super Camp (8-11 year-olds)
  • World Cooking Super Camps (12-17 year-olds)

Our camp fees are even the same as 2011--woo hoo!

You can check out our full camp descriptions, policies, and all that good stuff right here on The Kitchen Studio web site. We'd love to get cooking with you, your kids, your parents, heck, we'll cook with everyone! Happy cooking!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meet The Kitchen Studio Staff

These are the girls.

Caroline, Wendy, Sharon, Keri-Ann, Dotty, Kerry, & Elizabeth.

They are totally and completely awesome.

And they like to wash dishes.

Ok, not really, but they do it anyway.

Because they're awesome. Did I mention that?

Come on in to The Kitchen Studio this spring and say hello to our terrific staff. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Loving My Job, Part 2

Don't miss my buddy in the back. He decided the 'stache was better served as a wicked unibrow.

Excellent thinking sir. :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One of the reasons I love my job...

Right now at The Kitchen Studio, we've got both kid & teen afterschool classes running. This month's theme? Cooking Around the World!

Last week, we did a little bit of Italian cooking. And what goes better with Italian food than mustaches? Nothing I tell you; nothing. :D

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Recipe: Espresso Panna Cotta

Lately, I've been fiddling around quite a bit with various recipes for panna cotta, which essentially means cooked cream. It's a firm Italian custard made with no eggs, and set by gelatin. Easy, right?

You 'betcha! I do love custard, but once we get into water bath territory, I think of that hot water splashing on my arms and all of the time involved and I just, well, check out of the process. But with panna cotta, it's an absolute breeze to make, and, I promise, only 10 minutes or so from start to being placed in the fridge.

I started with a recipe by the ridiculously talented David Lebovitz, and you can find his Perfect Panna Cotta recipe here. It's very, very good, but also very, very rich (all heavy cream) and just a tiny bit firm for my personal taste. I changed things up a bit by reducing the amount of gelatin used, and switching out 4 cups of heavy cream for 2 cups of cream and 2 cups of whole milk. I also added a good bit of espresso flavor by using a good dose of instant espresso powder (you can find it online or in a local Italian Market, like Juliet's Italian Market on Church Street here in Frederick).

Here's the recipe for you, just in case you'd like a little something wonderful for a very quick and easy dessert that will have you looking like a real pro in the kitchen in no time at all. And I dare you not to eat them all.

Espresso Panna Cotta
Serves 8ish
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar (though you can use regular granulated sugar if it's all you've got)
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 4 teaspoons powdered gelatin (little bit less than 2 packets)
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla
  • pinch salt

Place the water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and allow to soften for 5 minutes.

Combine the heavy cream, milk, and sugar in a medium pot and place over medium heat until just beginning to simmer around the edges of the pot and sugar has melted. Add the espresso powder, vanilla, and pinch of salt and whisk gently until the powder has dissolved. Remove from heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Using a ladle, pour half of the milk mixture over the gelatin and whisk gently until the gelatin has dissolved. Pour remaining milk mixture into gelatin mixture, whisking to combine. Divide the custard mixture into 8 4-ounce ramekins, then place in the refrigerator to firm, 2 hours or so. Top with a chocolate-covered espresso bean and maybe even a dollop of whipped cream to serve.

There you go -- easy, right? Now go forth and panna cotta your little heart out! ;)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lucky Me: Great Article in The Town Courier

You know it's going to be a great day when someone writes that your skills are part science, part art. Am I right or am I right?

I really, really, really like what I do. Teaching cooking is one of my favorite things in the whole world (that and maybe a good chicken liver pate with some red onions and grainy mustard). And sometimes, someone takes it upon themselves to write something nice. And today is one of those days.

An article from last week's Town Courier, by Adrienne Lawrence, discusses our recent Soups & Stews class at The Kitchen Studio. Here's an excerpt:

"Chef Van Bloem has an easygoing style, and she mixes some important basics along with humor and lots of great conversation. For example, she showed us some tips on how to properly handle a knife. It starts with having the right standing position. You don’t want to be pretty when cooking — you want to be safe, she said. So spread your feet a little so you are comfortable, bend your knees a little, hold your knife a little higher, and don’t stick out your first finger over the top of the blade. Instead, curl your first finger and grip the knife from the bottom of the blade to the handle. No, you aren’t cutting your finger on the blade; it’s more of a relaxed position then that.

Can’t picture what I’m explaining? I understand. You should probably see Van Bloem do it in real life, and then you’ll see what I mean."

Check out the full article here, and let me know what you think. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kale & Butternut Squash Salad: Massage Your Kale

That sounds naughty...right?

Like you, I resolve every year to eat a little better. And every year, I succumb to the Nutella-buttercream stuffed whoopie pie at the expense of, well, my waistline.

This year however, I'm off to a good start, especially since I stumbled up on a really delicious recipe courtesy of the lovely folks over at the fab Food 52. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, please do so. It's a wealth of cooking info and a great source for really good, solid recipes.

As I looked through the site hoping for some inspiration on cooking with winter greens, I found a kale salad recipe from a restaurant in NYC called Northern Spy. You can check out the original recipe here, along with a gorgeous pic of their finished product.

Even though the recipe looked pretty darn good, I did a little more research into eating raw kale and found that massaging the kale lends a little extra tenderness to the final dish; something I was all for, as I find raw kale to be a bit too bitter and tough for my personal taste.

So I did what any good cook loves to do, which is change the recipe about here and there to include a new technique and get a few ingredients swapped about. Make no doubt about it -- this is definitely a riff on an already excellent recipe by Northern Spy, with just a few changes, including the whole massaging thing. Which is really funny to write, and even funnier to say. That said, take a look and give it a try.

Kale & Butternut Squash Salad
serves 4

1 small Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 large bunch Kale, de-stemmed and cut into strips/bite-sized pieces (choose your variety; I'm finding the curlier edged stuff at my local grocery but would love to locate a bit of Dinosaur kale)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup toasted, chopped Hazelnuts
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, not shredded, but cut into small little bite-sized pieces
2 more tablespoons good quality Olive Oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

Just look at this gorgeous kale! And yes, I did cut the squash smaller for roasting.
Preheat your oven to 450-degrees. Toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then sprinkle to taste with a little bit of salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, stir and toss, then roast an additional 15 minutes, until tender. Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, Place the kale in a large bowl. Sprinkle the 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt over the kale and begin to massage the salt into the kale, but not in a wussy, sad kinda way, but vigorously, twisting and turning to be sure to work the salt into the kale.

You'll start with this...

And end up with this...

This is where you'll notice, after a minute or two that you've lost quite a bit of volume in your kale, and that it looks a bit shinier and glossier. This is very good.

Add the cooled butternut squash, toasted hazelnuts, Parm, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and lemon juice, then toss really well to combine. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as you deem necessary. (Be sure you taste before adding the s&p, as you've already added salt to your dish when massaging the kale.)

Healthy, tasty, and truthfully, a total snap to prepare. Doesn't that look delicious?

Now, go forth and be healthy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Food Resolutions 2012

Yup-that time of year again. This is the time where I beat myself about the head and shoulders, desperately hoping to improve myself food-wise for the coming months. Do you do the same?

I can always thing of things to improve myself overall (whoo boy can I think of things!!), but in 2012, I'm upping the ante. I taking it big. BIG I say. BIG.

Here's what I've got food-resolution wise, 2012:

  • Submit at least one recipe to the fab site Food 52, because they're where it's at for crowd-sourced cooking, and they have some excellent credentials plus a fab new cookbook you should check out
  • Relaunch my teen & tween cooking site, Gotta Break Some Eggs with a weekly schedule, new cooking videos and recipes, and a section just for teens & tweens to submit their own recipes & photos (On track for Feb 1 btw:)
  • Take better food pics with my terrific Nikon 5100
  • Continue to develop fun, new classes for The Kitchen Studio that people love and will help them learn in the kitchen and have a good time too
  • Make my own mayo more often, because it's awesome (and you can too, just look here)
  • Do more real food writing, including my regular monthly column and weekly blog for Chesapeake Family Magazine
  • And more kale. No, really! I just did this whole thing on massaging kale to eat it in a raw salad, and it was pretty darn good. Pinky swear. :)

So now it's your turn. Any food resolutions 2012? I'd love to hear 'em. And Happy New Year!